Better than the worst players

by PokerAnon ~ February 2nd, 2012. Filed under: Basics of poker, Instructional posts, Poker psychology.

When you play poker the focus is on playing well, on looking for tough hands against tough players at that level. But that part doesn’t amount to much financially. That’s all for learning, improving, for keeping your head above water. The money really comes from the bad players when they make bad plays.


If I grab 2,000 or 10,000 or 40,000 cash table poker hands the pattern is pretty consistent; once I deduct the big wins from obvious bad players I’m near breakeven, or at least my all in EV will be near breakeven. Sure, there will still be hands like set over set, or combo draw that comes in or that gets avoided against aggressive players; other hands that make up big pots too, but it feels as if I’m only winning because of the bad players. And that can be disheartening.

Am I really making much when I successfully float a TAG and take away the pot with QTs that missed the board as much as his hand likely missed the board? Or when I call two barrels with an underpair on a board with a single broadway card on the flop against an expected aggressive player? Or with King high against a blind stealer? Over time these kinds of things add up to a huge amount, but to me this is just staying alive financially, helping me to pay the rake and giving me training and hands to ponder over. The winnings seem to come from treading water against the decent players while waiting for the bad players to pay off.

Of course that’s not entirely true because I also lose some money to bad players when they draw out on me or the times that I fold to maniacs, and I win a lot of small pots when I raise preflop and they call and then fold on the flop. And if I only deduct the big winning hands against the bad players then I still have the small winning hands as well as all the losing hands in the results. But it can certainly feel that way; as if I’m not that good, that the only reason that I’m a winning players is because of the bad players paying me off. In other words I’m not really a “winning player”, I’m just “not a bad player”.

If there are only two type of categories, “bad” versus “not bad”, or “losing” versus “winning”, then it’s fine to be “not bad” and “winning”. But that’s contrary to the competitive, aggressive, best-of-the-best attitude that lies within the personality of most poker players, both the winners and the losers (double-or-nothing players aside?).

We like to think of ourselves as good, or at least better than most. We don’t want to just label ourselves as better than the worst. But maybe better than most of the worst is all it takes to be a winner.


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